The throwback cover of Free Energy’s debut Stuck On Nothing makes it clear: The record is supposed to fit neatly with the best rock albums of 30 years ago—and it does. Take a listen to the stomping, freewheeling party-rocker “Bang Pop,” with its textbook hooks and soaring chant, and try not to imagine it blasting out the speakers of some mulleted teenager’s 1976 Pontiac Trans Am ala Dazed And Confused. Produced by James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) for his DFA label, Stuck On Nothing shares none of his irony: With ambitious, thick grooves and a thoroughly easygoing, feel-good attitude, there’s nothing disingenuous or contrived about the Philadelphia band’s sound.
Even on tracks that, on the surface, might seem a bit hokey, Free Energy succeeds with loose enthusiasm and unbridled confidence; yes, “Free Energy” sounds like a Thin Lizzy song, but authentically so. It’s all of the sunny, uncomplicated fun of classic glam-rock, with none of the silliness: Take, for example, “Hope Child,” which starts out sounding like a Kiss cover, and the six-and-a-half-minute “Wild Winds,” both of which wrap in layered, anthemic harmonies that bands such as T. Rex would never have touched. Unrestrained rock that vibes like this is never out of place.